Tower Road bypass

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Construction has generated controversy and claims of tax misuse

Author: taylor rattray – contributor

Regina is growing and infrastructure needs to keep pace. / Haley Klassen

Regina is growing and infrastructure needs to keep pace. / Haley Klassen

Earlier this year, the route for the Regina bypass was finalized. Created with the goal of reducing traffic congestion, improving safety, and producing jobs, the bypass will begin on Highway 11 northwest of Regina and run south to Highway 1. Travelling around the south end of the city, the bypass will connect back to Highway 1 on the east side of Regina, about 400 metres east of Tower Road.

But while the bypass proposes easier access for many people travelling to and from Regina, some are not so sure that proper steps have been taken to ensure the best routes were chosen.

Nestor Mryglod, president of Super Seamless Canada, isn’t pleased with the chosen location of the bypass where it connects back to Highway 1. He believes there are better options.

“This is a $1.2 billion infrastructure project, the biggest in Saskatchewan’s history. And there’s a lot of problems with it” Mryglod said.

Mryglod discovered the bypass project because of the impact it would have on his business. Eight years ago, his business purchased land just off Tower Road in order to relocate their manufacturing plant. He said that they only learned that there could be a future bypass there when his business applied for a permit in the area in 2013.

“We were never consulted and we were never informed about anything,” Mryglod explained.

Additionally, Mryglod thinks the public doesn’t know enough about the bypass and that the project has been pushed through the government, without enough explanation of cost and location. Over the past six to eight months, he has spent a significant amount of time digging into government files and talking to people about this issue. During one of his meetings with the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure, Mryglod, along with several other people also interested in moving the location of the bypass, posed a letter with 33 questions to the Minister. He says they’ve never received a response to any of those questions.

Mryglod has even started a petition, with the hope that the government will revisit the issue and move the bypass to a different location. Yet he still has a great deal of questions regarding how the government came to the conclusion to build the bypass 400 metres east of Tower Road.

“There’s already construction alongside of Tower Road. How could you ever decide that this would serve the community for 50 years when it’s already obsolete?” Mryglod said of the government’s decision. “If you need to build it on Highway 1, push it out of the city another mile on Gravel Pit Road. [There], you can go north, you can go south, [and the government] owns three of the four quarters of the land, so you aren’t going to impact people.”

But Doug Wakabayashi, from the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure, said that there are more problems with the Gravel Pit Road location than with the chosen location near Tower Road.

Wakabayashi explains, “There’s a series of overpasses planned for Highway 1 east, starting at the junction at Highway 46 at Balgonie, then Highway 48 at White City, and then another one planned at Pilot Butte Access Road. And so, with the Tower Road location, there’s good spacing between the overpass at Tower Road and the Pilot Butte Access Road, because once overpasses get too close together, you get a meeting between traffic slowing down to exit the highway and traffic trying to speed up to enter.”

As well, Wakabayashi stated that, if Gravel Pit Road was chosen for the location of the bypass, the people of Pilot Butte trying to get to Highway 1 would have to go down a service road to get to Gravel Pit Road, where they could then get onto Highway 1. Furthermore, “A lot of the people who live in Pilot Butte access services in the Emerald Park/White City area, so they’d have to go either to Gravel Pit Road or all the way to Highway 48 and double back to get to Emerald Park.”

To Bruce Evans, Mayor and long-time resident of White City, the bypass will be a great improvement to the infrastructure of the Regina-area, despite the controversy surrounding its chosen location.

“We are thrilled with the project that’s been announced because it will drastically improve the safety and the accessibility of residents coming to and from White City, along with Pilot Butte, Balgonie, and then of course, the city of Regina,” Evans said.

Bruce has been involved in the review of options and locations for the bypass since 2009. He says the decision that has been made was done with a great deal of consultation between the municipalities, the Ministry of Highways, and the public over the last five years.

“I think the greatest risk to building the bypass is not building a bypass,” Bruce added. “If you were to change the location and push it to the east, that in turn pushes all other interchanges further east and creates a whole new set of issues for some other property owners. At some point in time, you just have to pick the best location.”

For many people who travel back and forth between Regina and the smaller communities east of the city, the bypass is said to decrease their travel time significantly by reducing traffic congestion. These communities, as well at the city of Regina, have grown significantly in recent years, yet the infrastructure surrounding them remains largely the same. The safety of Highway 1 east has also been called into question, and many hope the bypass will improve safety. As for the connecting bypass between the Regina overpass and Highway 1, Evans believes the chosen location is the best option.

“If we were to stop this project so that we could revisit the locations…the likelihood is that this project would not get built within the next twenty years,” Evans said. “In the meantime, you would have more and more traffic accidents, fatalities, and traffic congestion.”

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